IPMA International Project Management Association
28 October 2015 / 9:23

Projects require virtuosity

We experience an increasing number and importance of projects in our society. One of the most important characteristic of a project is the uniqueness, which means that a project differs from routine tasks and other projects through distinctive features, such as the complexity, volume, risk exposure, stakeholder involved or specific requirements. This requires a project manager to be virtuoso, because “one size (project management) does not fit all (projects)”. The successful application of project management requires the project manager to tailor the project management to the needs of a specific project. For example, an innovative project requires shorter planning cycles, a flexible project management approach with emphasis on intensive stakeholder engagement and communication, a less bureaucratic administration and different leadership style, to name only a few distinctive features. A small humanitarian project may require only a few basic processes, whereas a major infrastructure project requires a fully blown project management process with detailed planning and controlling procedures. Another example is a change project, which basically requires a “soft touch” on project management with a systemic approach focussing on communication, cooperation and moderation.

Often projects or programmes a structured in a way, that a divers kind of projects or sub-projects are clustered together to achieve the overall goal. For every project or sub-project the manager may use a different approach. Sometimes, even within a project, during the phases a different approach may be used. For example, in a product development project for the Automotive Industry, the project management chosen could be rather agile at the early stage of pre-development or ideation, the closer you come to the mass-production, the more you need to synchronise with the other processes and therefore use a traditional project management approach. Later, during the mass production the project management approach needs to take into consideration the change activities. The servicing or after sales activities also require a different approach for project management.

In essence, there is no “one” approach to project management. There is a generic concept how to tackle projects, that can be found in all project management approaches. Which specific project management approach is applicable for a project, the sub-projects or even each project phase depends on the circumstances. The project manager and team needs to analyse the specific situation and its requirements for project management, chose the right approach out of their “tool box” or repertoire and be virtuoso like a musician. Trainings for project managers should thus not focus on only “one” approach, but to explain which approach helps in which situation, because virtuosity needs to be trained, practiced and improved in real life. Have fun experiencing the virtuosity, it´s much more interesting than performing it always the same way…

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.